In today’s economy, what are the greatest assets for companies? Recently some believed it was offering their wares in the virtual world. They were later named the “.dot.bombs”. Others aggressively pushed for shear volume. They felt that building more factories to make more and more widgets to demonstrate strength would win the hearts of many. They, too, suffer in economic downturns. Through it all, two indicators of a successful company remain: The ability to adapt quickly in a rapidly changing, technologically advanced world; and the ability to develop and retain high performing employees.
It was once said, “Give a man a fish and he’ll have food for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he’ll have food for a lifetime.” Effective training of employees is a core requirement for an organization to achieve these interdependent needs. Determining when and how to train presents a different set of issues, most of which depend on the standards and expectations set by management.
1. Is training necessary, or are there other reasons for performance issues?
2. Do employees learn best by observation or participation?
3. At what level will performance be satisfactory? (If the golf score required to achieve par was increased, would the standard at the professional level decrease accordingly?)
Regardless of the training standards your company culture has in place, research has shown that employees want to be participants in the development of something greater than themselves. They do not simply want instruction on the development process that uses memorization techniques. If it doesn’t relate to what they are doing, how they are going to do it, or what’s in it for them, it’s unrealistic to expect them to retain the information.
The Cone of Learning represents the relationship between trainee participation and retention.
We’ve all seen this diagram before. But do we apply it? Simply stated, as you move toward the bottom of the cone, the learning methods are more active and result in much greater retention by the learner. In order to adapt quickly in the rapidly changing global market, interactive training is the most effective method to achieve rapid successful knowledge retention. Employees respond positively when they believe they are part of something greater and have the ability to impact the outcome. Evidence of this comes from a 1994 national survey by Princeton Research Associates that showed:
· 63% of workers want more influence in workplace decisions
· 76% believe their companies would be more competitive if employees were involved in production and operating decisions
· 79% believe employee involvement improves product and service quality
For years we have measured student success in terms of how much time has been spent in the classroom, and how well a student does on a series of tests, most of which assess memorization skills. But how important is memorization skill to a supervisor that needs employees with a critical mass of all three job performance necessities; the Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSA’s) to competently do the tasks required? When employees have both a high level and an equal balance of Knowledge, Skill, and Attitude, it leads to both performance and accountability.
If we want people to really get it, we need to do more than just have them read a placard or manual, or watch a video. One way to measure the effectiveness of training is to have employees train other employees. Most people can remember the sweaty hands the first time they had to present or train others. Silence can be deadly when you have an audience and you don’t have the competent words to speak. William Glasser, (MD in psychiatry and author of 21 related books) states, “We should provide opportunities for students to teach what we want them to learn.” In one of his studies, he notes:
· 10% of what we read
· 20% of what we hear
· 30% of what we see
· 50% of what we both see and hear
· 70% of what is discussed with others
· 80% of what we experience personally
· 95% OF WHAT WE TEACH SOMEONE ELSE
Andrew Carnegie once said “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.”
We need to go beyond trying to identify what employees need. Rather, we need to have them demonstrate the real thing! When we specify the level of accomplishment that meets the company cultural standards, then we can hold employees accountable for meeting those standards.
This does not mean reading a manual, watching a video, viewing a demonstration, or even engaging in a web-based training course are ineffective methods. Each has its own place and purpose and can be effective when put into proper perspective. But studying to get a driver’s permit can’t be compared to driving the car for the first time. It’s the real thing.
It’s clear that workplace changes and a focus on continuous improvement are essential to the economic future of this nation. When compared to other developed economies in the 21st century, advantages will come to organizations that work better and manage smarter. Unleashing the full potential of the workforce is critical in sustaining our nation’s safe economic growth, and demonstrating the real thing is the most effective mode of training our workforce how to get there.